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Workers

If you want anything to happen in your simulated world, you’ll need workers.

SpatialOS manages the world, keeping track of all the entities and what state they’re in. But on its own, it doesn’t make any changes to the world. All the logic and computation is done by workers.

Workers can be thought of as ‘spatial microservices’ that connect to a simulated world, and can read what’s happening, watch for changes, and make changes of their own. For example, a player’s client is one kind of worker. When a player presses a key, the client sends an update to SpatialOS saying that an event has happened on the entity that is the player’s avatar: for example, that the “fire” button has been pressed.

When this happens, the response to this event is also carried out by workers. A logic worker might need to create a new entity, the bullet. The client visualizes the action of firing. A physics worker checks to see if the bullet collides with anything. And if it hits another player, workers come in again, to carry out the logic of reducing health, and so on.

Which workers you need depends on your simulated world. Most games will need, at least:

  • clients (for players to interact with and view the game)
  • server-side workers (that impelement server-side logic and physics)

But you can have workers for whatever you need. You could have a worker that fetches data from outside sources (for example from a database, or real-time weather data, or a social network feed) and makes it part of the simulated world, or a worker that specializes in pathfinding and routing.

Why?

Building your simulated world in this way allows SpatialOS to scale it massively, without the complexity of more traditional approaches.

The amount of work that each type of worker needs to do will vary. It might be that, for one type of worker, there’s not much for it to do - so you only need one instance of the worker to do the work for the whole world.

But what happens when that amount of work increases, for example if a lot of players connect? Suddenly, that single instance of the worker can’t get all that work done. It might become incredibly slow, or fall over altogether.

This is where it becomes important that every entity in the world has spatial locality: it allows SpatialOS to split up the work in different areas of the world, and allocate it to different instances of a worker. When an instance of a worker is struggling with a high workload, SpatialOS automatically detects this. It then starts up new instances of the worker, and gives them responsibility for an area of the world, reducing the amount of work each instance is doing to a level it can handle.

This also means that an entity won’t necessarily stay on the same worker instance, even if that entity doesn’t move. SpatialOS may change which areas of the world a worker instance is responsible for, so entities move from one worker instance’s area to another. Even though the entity may be staying still, the worker instance itself is effectively moving.

Find out more

To find out what types of workers there are, and how to use them, see the Introduction to workers.

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